Friday, April 29, 2016

Home and Garden - Peas, peas, peas - pointers to go from garden to table - By Harrison Wood

Now for the vegetable garden. Some plants can take our cool mornings, even frosts, so before it gets to hot and you lose out, it's time to hurry up and get busy. Off to the vegetable garden where we can start all those tasty early things.

If you remember, last fall we added all the leaves to the garden and turned them in, if you didn't, then off to the compost, adding lots of it all over. Adding a great deal of compost each year is important, You're not only adding some valuable nutrients in small amounts, especially the trace elements, you're adding a lot of beneficial bacteria that you need to keep the soil alive and active. Good bacteria is necessary so that the nutrients that we add to the garden in the form of fertilizer are not tied up and wasted, as such the plants aren't able to use them.

While you're at it take the time to sweeten the Ph of our  native Maine soil, by adding some lime, pelletized works fast, or powdered, but never hydrated, that's for other projects. By keeping our soils on the sweeter side, those nutrients that become tied up in an acidic soil are available for the vegetables to use. Without this step every couple of years all is wasted.

At the same time I trudge across the garden spreading my trusty 5-10-5. If I can't get it, I'll use 10-10-10 as an alternative, organic is even that much better, but never do I use fertilizer that is intended for lawn areas, to many nutrients designed just to grow nothing, but leaves. If you didn't add rock phosphate over the last couple of years, add it now. This is an important slow release organic source of phosphorus that gives us a wonderful root system.

If you haven't already ordered your seeds then it's off to the local farm supply to attack their seed racks. We're going to plant all sorts of early things that will say thank you for their cool spring start.

You want peas, radishes, carrots, onion sets, loose leaf lettuce, as well as Swiss chard and beets, all of which can go into the cool soil "now," without the worry of damaging frost. For the window boxes as well as your planters grab a few packs of pansies while you're there. They can all take the cool weather, even a bit of snow if they have to, heaven forbid we see more snow. Let it stay in Colorado.

Read the back of the seed packs carefully, some peas for example will need a string trellis to climb, so that we can eat pods and all, others we want to grow for just the peas themselves. There are some newer varieties that we can grow for not only there edible pods, but also their edible tendrils, the little terminal branches that hold the vines to their trellis, they can afford to lose a few so that you can add something special to your salads.

Carrots and onion sets are going to be in the same spots for most of the season, so keep that in mind when you choose their location. Carrots now come not only in a number of different sizes, they also come in a number of different colors, other than just orange. The carrots will need to be thinned after a while so that they don't crowd themselves out, so be prepared to pull some and send them to your salad, foliage and all wasting nothing. Early onions can be used for their bulbs as well as for their greens, add to your meal anytime you want something fresh. If you've never tasted a carrot fresh out of the soil, you've ever tasted a truly fresh carrot.
Radishes along with the leaf lettuces come and go quickly so do several smaller plantings about a week or so apart until the warmer weather arrives, then stop until the cooler weather of September arrives when they can once again enjoy the cool season, radishes especially deplore hot weather.

Swiss chard and beets also come in several colors, as a long season crop they are going to be with you all summer, the flavor will improve as the cool fall grows closer. Keep in mind that Swiss chard seeds are actually a small cluster of seeds so they will also require some thinning, like the others throwing away nothing as you add them to your salad.

Yes, it's a bit of work, but once you simply step outside your door to get something real fresh for the table, you'll agree that it's worth all the work. So off you go, get started.

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